Geneticists scolded for giving genes silly names

grouchoSome fruit-fly genes have names like these:

Groucho Marx: A fruit fly that produces an excess of facial bristles.

Cheap Date: A fruit fly that expresses high sensitivity to alcohol.

Ken and Barbie: Fruit flies that fail to develop external genitalia.

I’m Not Dead Yet: INDY for short, these are fruit flies who live longer than usual. [NPR explains where this came from, like you don’t know if you’re reading this blog]

Harmless enough, you’d think, but:

Since it’s increasingly likely some fruit fly genes will show up in humans, Dr. [Murray] Feingold [a Massachusetts clinician who treats people with genetic diseases] warns it will not be possible for doctors to hide a scientific name like “I’m Not Dead Yet.”…

And for a doctor, these names become embarrassing “when that gene becomes responsible for some kind of medical problem and I have to tell that patient, ‘Well, I’m sorry things don’t look so good because you have [the] I’m Not Dead Yet gene.'”

So it’s not just PC run amok, but a curious case study in the democratization of information. Your take?

[The immortal Julius Marx: Wikimedia Commons]

4 thoughts on “Geneticists scolded for giving genes silly names”

  1. It’s no problem. One can always just assign a new name. For example, when was the last time that you heard of anyone undergoing a “nuclear magnetic resonance” (NMR) scan? Too many people were afraid of NMR because of the word “nuclear,” so the procedure was renamed “magnetic resonance imaging” (MRI) — problem solved!

  2. I’m going to take the apparently insubordinate opinion that the entire medical profession needs to take themselves less seriously.

    I mean, 12 years of school later and you’re just a glorified mechanic, man.

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